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Shining a Light on the Darker Side of Solar Power

Coalition Urges Elimination of Taxpayer-Funded SunShot Initiative

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The year is nearly halfway through, yet Congress still has plenty of work to get done in order to make 2017 a productive one. This week there is expected to be a vote on a spending bill that will miss the mark on any meaningful reductions in spending, but there also may be a vote on repeal and replace of Obamacare. The mixed bag from Congress and the White House so far is a bit disappointing but there are opportunities to cut wasteful programs and save taxpayers money. One such example is the SunShot Initiative.  Right now taxpayers, through the Department of Energy (DOE), are paying for the program that spends $270 million per year to “induce companies to lower production and installation costs associated with photovoltaic solar panel systems and reducing the price of solar power.” This is a terrible program and that’s why TPA organized this coalition letter urging House Appropriators to eliminate funding for SunShot. » Read More

The Truth Behind the Solar Jobs Report

(This article originally appeared in The Daily Signal on January 31, 2017) As the Obama administration recedes into history, policymakers would be well advised to rethink the feasibility of taxpayer-funded renewable energy schemes.  In just a few weeks, the Solar Foundation, a Washington-based nonprofit group, will release its latest annual report touting growth figures for solar jobs while it also warns against policies that could result in layoffs.  But the hard reality is that even as solar energy became politically fashionable, it remained economically unsound.  Just ask Elon Musk, the South African-born, Los Angeles-based renewable energy business mogul who had his electric car company bail out his solar energy company last year.  With the change in administration, it is possible there might be an end to the solar investment tax credit, which has been propping up failing solar enterprises on the taxpayer dime. So, expect the Solar Foundation to double down on its talking points in its upcoming report.  In America, anyone is free to lobby and push for their own personal policy preferences. Federal and state officials who have the power to give preferential treatment to this industry should know there are all kinds of conflicts of interest that should be taken into account.  For starters, the Solar Foundation is closely aligned with the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group that advocates on behalf of those that manufacture and install solar energy equipment.

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It’s Time to Stop Spending Taxpayer Dollars on Elon Musk and Cronyism

(This artcile originally appeared in The Daily Signal on November 13, 2016)  From Enron to Bernie Madoff, at the end of every great American financial scandal, the totality of the perpetrators’ greed seems to be matched only by the public’s incredulity at how such a thing could be allowed to happen.  And thanks to Elon Musk, there’s a good chance we may all be asking this question again soon.  The Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee have launched a probe into tax incentives paid to solar companies, according to The Wall Street Journal. The committee probes, led by their respective Republican chairmen, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas and Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, have found an appropriate and disturbing target to begin this work.  SolarCity, a solar installation company set to be purchased by Tesla Motors Inc., is one of the seven companies named in the initial investigation.  Already grossly subsidized, Musk’s SolarCity has become an albatross of waste, fraud, and abuse of tax payer dollars. As legitimate earnings and cash become even scarcer for SolarCity, its entanglement in the Tesla empire suggests that a drastic reckoning not only is imminent, but in fact emboldening Musk to become more outlandish and reckless.  Notably, SolarCity is run by Musk’s cousins, Lyndon and Peter Rive. During his chairmanship at SolarCity, Musk’s family enterprise has taken in billions of taxpayer dollars in subsidies from both the federal and local governments. But the subsidies and sweetheart deals were not enough, as losses and missed projections continued to mount.  Ultimately, rather than endure the embarrassment of collapse and further damage to the public image of Musk and Tesla, the cousins conspired to have Tesla simply purchase SolarCity this year. The conditions of the deal screamed foul play.

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Florida's Solar Electric Choice Ballot Question Will Benefit All Consumers

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This article originally appeared on EnergyCentral.com on November 2, 2016

Florida’s Question 1 on Solar will benefit consumers because it authorizes the adoption of important consumer protection policies and regulations for the solar industry.  Consumers may be interested in solar power to help the environment, or simply to save money on their electric bills. Whether purchased or leased, the consumer is making a financial commitment with the expectation that savings on utility bills will offset all or a large portion of the monthly cost of the system.  It is too easy for a consumer to be misled into a purchase based on exaggerated assumptions about future savings. Consumer complaints have prompted states to take action in the courts, and propose consumer protections to address abuses. The most typical arrangement for customers who cannot afford the full cost of installation is a lease agreement.  The homeowner enters into a lease agreement and makes pre-established monthly payments to the solar company, who retains ownership of the system for the contract term.  A consumer’s actual monthly savings in energy bills will depend on the increase in electricity rates over the contract term, any net metering or value of state solar tariff programs, as well as new or increased fees that solar customers are required to pay.  It is vital to have uniform disclosures on the assumptions that the solar company used for the contract, as well as providing information on the limitations of the savings estimates.

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Amendment 1 is the right choice for solar in Florida

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Dick Batchelor, co-chairman of Consumers for Smart Solar, is a former chairman of the Florida House Energy Committee and former chairman of the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission. This Op-Ed appeared in the Tampa Bay Times on October 27, 2016. 

The Tampa Bay Times formalized its longstanding opposition to Amendment 1 in a recent editorial. Unfortunately, like our opponents, the Times would like voters to decide this issue based on everything except what the amendment actually says and does. Those who are not sure about how to vote on this issue should ask three simple questions: Should the right of every Floridian to generate his or her own solar electricity be protected? Should solar energy companies have to abide by the same consumer protection rules that all other energy providers must follow? Should those who don't choose solar be protected from having to pay higher electric bills to subsidize someone else's decision to go solar? If you answered yes, then you should vote yes on Amendment 1. Because that's all it does.

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